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Panthers aim to extend streak vs. Maple Leafs

by Brian Hunter

PANTHERS (12-17-5) at MAPLE LEAFS (17-15-3)


Last 10: Florida 6-4-0; Toronto 3-6-1

Season series: This is the first of four games between the Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs. The Maple Leafs swept three games from the Panthers during the 2012-13 season, winning a pair by shutout. James Reimer stopped all 34 shots he faced and Phil Kessel scored twice in a 4-0 victory on April 25, their most recent matchup.

Big story: Even though workhorse goaltender Tim Thomas is back on the shelf, the Panthers are on something of a hot streak. They've won a season-high three straight games -- the past two with veteran Scott Clemmensen in net -- and five of their past six to pull closer in the Atlantic Division standings.

"We do [look at the standings], but for a while there it was getting ugly so we were just worrying about the next shift, the next game," forward Scottie Upshall said. "When you get into these losing situations you just have to get out of the funk, and looking at the standings is not the way to do it. Now, once we've figured our game out and we know what it takes to win … we're starting to find a little bit of an identity."

Team Scope:

Panthers: Clemmensen first reached the NHL in 2001-02 with the New Jersey Devils, but with Martin Brodeur firmly entrenched there, he played in just 28 games over his first six seasons. When Brodeur suffered the first major injury of his career in 2008-09, Clemmensen won 25 games and earned himself a free-agent contract with Florida.

Largely forgotten this season after Thomas entered the fold, Clemmensen picked up his first two wins of the season against the Washington Capitals on Friday and the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday, allowing three goals on 43 shots in the process.

"This is my job, this is what I've been doing," Clemmensen told the Miami Herald. "When given the opportunity, I can step in and play regardless if I've been sitting for a while or someone gets hurt and I have to play a few in a row. Whatever it is, that's my job."

Maple Leafs: This is the start of a three-game homestand for Toronto, which had its lead over the Ottawa Senators for fifth in the Atlantic cut to three points when it lost 3-1 at the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday and the Senators claimed a 3-2 overtime win against the St. Louis Blues.

Morgan Rielly lifted the Maple Leafs into a 1-1 tie heading into the third when he scored his first NHL goal on a power play, but Sidney Crosby connected for the go-ahead goal and the Leafs couldn't capitalize on a late 6-on-4 advantage with the goalie pulled before the Penguins iced it on a shorthanded empty-netter by Brandon Sutter.

"It's a pretty nice feeling, but it's always tough when your team loses," Rielly said of his milestone. "You're not overly happy after the game because of what the score was, but it's pretty nice just to get it out of the way."

Who's hot: Nick Bjugstad has goals in two of the past three games for the Panthers. … Nikolai Kulemin has goals in two of the past three games for the Maple Leafs.

Injury report: Florida defenseman Erik Gudbranson (lower body) left the game Saturday after the first period, but is expected to play Tuesday. Forward Jonathan Huberdeau (foot) was out on the lineup and is questionable. Thomas (lower body) and defensemen Ed Jovanovski (hip) and Matt Gilroy (lower body) are on injured reserve. … Toronto forwards Dave Bolland (ankle), Colton Orr (elbow) and Tyler Bozak (strained oblique) are on injured reserve.

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